The story of the man in the center
Oct 14, 2020 | 7397 views | 0 0 comments | 896 896 recommendations | email to a friend | print
This is an undated photo we ran from our archives a while back asking readers to help us identify the people and the event, and we received a wealth of great information.

Several responders were able to identify the political personalities in the photo. The person standing third from the left is John Sabini, who at the time of the photo represented Jackson Heights in the City Council, a post he held from 1992-2001.

He would later represent an overlapping district in the State Senate from 2003 to 2008, before retiring to accept the post of chairman of the New York State Racing and Wagering Board, which he held until 2013.

While Sabini officially retired, many feel that he saw the writing on the wall that his time in office was coming to an end and decided to jump at the next opportunity.

He narrowly defeated former councilman Hiram Monserrate in the previous election in 2006, and was facing another tough challenge from him in in 2008.

While Sabini had always been a loyal and respected member of the Queens Democratic Party, his near defeat in 2006 and the fact that the district was shifting in demographics to include more Hispanic voters, the Democratic Party decided they were going to back Monserrate in the race.

In fact, it Sabini’s past loyalty to the party that likely led to him being offered a political appointment rather than lose the election and find himself without any options.

As one political insider told us at the time, the Democratic Party leaders were more worried about backing a losing candidate and taking a hit to their own influence in the political landscape than actually backing the better candidate, regardless of his chances.

(Although, given the recent defeats by party-backed candidates, most notably Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s defeat of Joseph Crowley – who was actually Queens Democratic Party chairman at the time! - the backing of the party is no longer the golden ticket to winning elected office that it once was.)

At the time, the insider told us their were serious questions about Monserrate’s integrity, a hunch that would prove prophetic.

Once in the State Senate, Monserrate would mastermind a parliamentary coup with a fellow Democratic colleague, voting with Republicans to replace then-senate majority leader Malcolm Smith, a Democrat from his own home borough of Queens, with Republican Dean Skelos.

The move left the legislature in deadlock for years.

But his shifting political allegiances aside, Monserrate’s real fall from grace would be the assault of his then-girlfriend in 2008. Monserrate cut her face when he slammed a glass into it, and then was caught on camera dragging her by the hair from his apartment building.

In 2009, the State Senate voted to expel Monserrate after he was convicted on a misdemeanor assault charge. Then, in 2012, Monserrate started serving a 21-month prison sentence on federal corruption charges.

According to the indictment, while in the City Council Monserrate steered $300,000 in city funds to a local nonprofit, which then used some of the money to do campaign work for Monserrate.

You would think all of this scandal would have been the end of Monserrate’s political career, but he is still on the scene. He recently won an election for district leader, a largely ceremonial post within the Democratic Party but a sign that he still enjoys support in the district.

Most recently, he lost in the June Democratic Party for an Assembly seat.

Next week, we promise we’ll have more information on the political figures who are actually in the photo, which to the right of Sabini are Henry Stern, Ivan Lafayette and Leonard Stavisky. We also received some information on the man to Sabini’s left.

If you can identify any of the other people in the photo, get in touch with us at and we’ll include it in future issues.
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